JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – One morning last April, Myles Jack awoke to find a Jacksonville Jaguars fan had sent a direct message to the president of the United States.
“Please DM me as soon as possible,” wrote the fan. “I have exclusive information and evidence that is going to prove the Russia investigation is nothing more than a witch hunt.”
The president bit: “Go ahead.”
The fan replied: “Myles Jack wasn’t down in the AFC championship game against the Patriots.”
It’s impossible to prove if this prank went down as it seemed. One thing is true: Jack, seeing this gag while checking his phone in bed, laughed hysterically.
“Myles Jack Wasn’t Down” has become a meme, a display case of soda at a grocery store, a line in a graduation speech, and even the name of a beer. Jack says he’s hailed on the street whenever he’s out, almost without fail: “Hey, you weren’t down!”
“This week,” the linebacker says, “has been especially crazy.”
That’s because this week is the rematch (sort of), with the Patriots traveling to the sauna of Duval County. For the 1-0 Pats, it’s another stop on a season-long defense of their AFC crown. For the 1-0 Jags, it’s the chance to make a point.
It was early in the fourth quarter of the conference championship in Foxborough and the Jags were leading 20-10. “It was a double pass,” Jack says. “They threw it to the flat. I was all the way to the left side of the field, and they threw a screen back to the running back. I went to chase. The blockers weren’t looking at me, they were both blocking Telvin [Smith]. All I see is the ball and I went to strip it. When I stripped it I felt it coming out. I let it roll on me, picked it up and went to take off and they blew it dead, man.”
If the play was called correctly and Jack scored to make it 27-10, the Jaguars would almost certainly have made the Super Bowl. Instead the Pats roared back, and their title game against the Philadelphia Eagles played on the screens in the Jags’ locker room on Thursday. Not a single player watched.
The problem with the argument that the Jags should have won is that the Pats always seem to win big games with some twist of fate. That’s part of their villainy, but it’s also part of their excellence. “They get you down to the end of the game and [take advantage when] something is going to break down for you,” says Jags offensive coordinator Nate Hackett.
It’s not a complaint; it’s a compliment. The Jags have never beaten the Pats in the regular season, so no one here can talk. Even Jalen Ramsey said Rob Gronkowski was “good” on Thursday, in a slight walk-back of his prior comments.
Gronkowski is a part of this narrative too. He missed the bulk of that game after a vicious helmet-to-helmet hit. So Pats fans can say their team wasn’t at full strength in January. And Jags fans can say their vaunted defensive was coming off two close playoff games while New England had a bye and home field. Around and around it goes. But that only amps up the importance of this particular game. Julian Edelman is suspended, but both teams are pretty much at full strength.
The Jags admit they think about that January loss. “A lot,” Jack says. “Especially in the offseason. It was tough watching the Super Bowl. We could have been in that game.” The play he remembers is not the famous one, but rather a fourth-quarter flea flicker where Tom Brady found Phillip Dorsett deep down the sideline.
“I bit on play-action,” Jack recalls. “I ran back to play the dude. He caught it. He Moss’d me.”
On the replay, you can see Jack lower his head upon seeing he gave up the grab.
“That’s the play that’s haunted me this whole offseason,” he says. “That specific play right there.”
There were other mistakes. The Jags went conservative on offense when they should have gone pedal-down. When asked on Thursday if he would have a different game plan this time, Hackett smiled coyly and said, “What do you mean by that?” He then said the goal was “big chunks of plays” and to “go until the dogs are called off – which will probably be never.”
The home fans won’t call off the dogs; they’ve reportedly planned a flyover with a message on a banner that you can probably guess.
So “Myles Jack Wasn’t Down” is much more than a catchphrase. It’s a reminder of a bitter defeat and a mirthful suggestion that the better team lost.
“For it to end like that and have controversial things like that, I think it gave us a positive outlook,” Jack says. “It was the wrong call made.”
The phrase will take on a different meaning after this game. If the Jags win, it’ll be more of a statement with some oomph behind it. If the Jags lose, well, it’ll sound more like a conspiracy theory.
The Jags will have something to say after Sunday’s game, because they always have something to say. But if they beat the Pats, a lot more people will be listening.
Maybe even the Pats-Fan-In-Chief.
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